Sunday, February 17, 2013

Petty Corruption in a Shrunken Vatican

I just today got around to reading about the last papal scandal, which began when the Pope's butler leaked a pile of private correspondence to Italian reporters. It's a dismal story, full of mean-spirited backstabbing and frustrated hopes. The pope wanted to reform the Vatican and make it more transparent and accountable, but his efforts were frustrated by a cabal of Italian cardinals. For example, the pope actually announced in public that the Vatican bank would adopt international rules against money laundering and allow EU officials to audit its books, but this never happened; too much exposure of church secrets, the cardinals insisted, and they have had their way so far. The man who spearheaded the reform effort was packed off to serve as ambassador to the US, the whole matter quietly forgotten. It's like something from the sixteenth century, except back then the papacy was one of the world's wealthiest and most important institutions. At least when the Borgias and the Medicis were struggling for control, the papacy was a prize worth having. Now, the machinations of cardinals feel like the maneuverings of board members in a suburban homeowners' association. Small men, squabbling over crumbs, as the church sinks around them.

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